Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Plain speaking on the NHS - a great Public/Private partnership

If we discount those self-regarding libertarians who want to dismantle the NHS, and those neo-Marxists who think it should have no commercial targets at all, there is the potential for a consensus on the Health Service. I believe that this enormous enterprise is one of the world’s great public/private partnerships. Its delivery costs are highly competitive compared with much of the Western world. And if we as a nation choose to provide healthcare that is (mostly) free at point of use (we do) then we presently do it pretty well.

Key, to me, is to accept that contracting out against competitive tender is not just desirable but essential for certain things that the NHS does. Similarly that there are some things which should only be entrusted to public employees and never contracted out. The challenge is to decide which parts of the NHS fall into the first, and which into the second category. And to stop perpetrating the lie that contacting out is “privatisation”. It isn’t. The assets used remain State property. There is no actual privatisation at all.

The NHS must meet agreed standards at an acceptable cost. That may seem obvious but how many people in the debate think that everything should be subject to commercial challenge (it shouldn’t) or that nothing should (wrong as well!). 


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